Page last updated on Tue Nov 24 19:10:24 EST 2015
Thu, 23 May 2013 02:30 AM EDT

Vinny Del Negro is out as coach of the Clippers after a season in which the team won its first division title but lost in the first round of the playoffs.

The team said he won’t be offered a contract when his current one expires at the end of June. He is just the second coach to leave the team with a winning record, following Larry Brown in 1993.

”This was a difficult decision, but we feel this is the best decision for our franchise moving forward,” declared Gary Sacks, VP of basketball operations.

Del Negro had a 128-102 regular-season record in 3 years with the team. The Clippers made the playoffs the last 2 seasons, including last year when they advanced to the 2nd round for only the second time since the franchise moved to Los Angeles in 1984.

This season, the team won a franchise-record 56 games, including a 17-game winning streak. And with All-Stars Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, the Clippers were one of the NBA’s most exciting attractions, with acrobatic dunks and dazzling playmaking. But the postseason was quick and disappointing – an exit in 6 games to Memphis in spite of a 2-0 lead.

”We would like to thank Vinny for everything he did during his 3 years with the organization,” Sacks said. ”Vinny helped this team win a Pacific Division title and we greatly appreciate all that he and his staff helped us accomplish.”

The search for a new coach will begin immediately.

Del Negro had the highest winning percentage (.557) for a coach in the club’s beleaguered history. He is the only coach to have consecutive winning seasons since the Buffalo Braves moved to California and became the Clippers in 1978. The Clippers had just 6 winning seasons in their first 41 years. Now they’ve put together consecutive winning records and playoff appearances for the first time in 20 years.

”We’ve set every franchise record,” Del Negro said 2 weeks ago. ”So I am pleased with a lot of things we did.”

Much of the credit for the dramatic turn-around went to Paul and Griffin. Del Negro was criticized on times this season for his rotations, and there was speculation about whether he would return. NFL odds

Paul and Griffin have been supportive of their coach, and 2 weeks ago Sacks acknowledged that the players’ opinions would join the decision on Del Negro.

Del Negro had said he enjoyed working with Paul and Griffin.

”They’re the nucleus of the team, obviously, that you want to keep intact and move forward with,” he said.

Sacks made it clear that the team’s top priority is to re-sign Paul, who becomes an unrestricted free agent July 1. He could receive a 5-year, $108 million contract.

Del Negro came to the Los Angeles Clippers from the Chicago Bulls, where the 46-year-old coach went 82-82 in 2 seasons including back-to-back playoff appearances before getting fired.

Before that, Del Negro had front-office roles with Phoenix from 2006-08. He previously worked as a broadcaster for the Phoenix Suns and San Antonio Spurs. He played in the NBA for 12 years.

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